Montgomery County Reignites Efforts to Find, Retain Volunteer Firefighters
The Main Line has been struggling to keep volunteer firefighters, but many stations in Montgomery County are taking the incentive route for retention. The number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania has dwindled from 60,000 to 38,000 over the past two decades, writes Paul Jablow for Main Line Today.
Professional firefighters can cost departments up to $100,000 a year, so volunteers are a necessity in keeping the municipal service alive. Thanks to a FEMA grant, many departments across Montgomery County can offer incentives like college tuition reimbursements and housing.
Gladwyne’s Fire Station provided Brady McHale with a place to live in 2013 as a volunteer. Now he’s on Lower Merion Township’s recruitment and retention committee.
Bryn Mawr’s fire station provided volunteer David Randazzo with a subsidized home when Villanova University shut down due to the pandemic.
Aside from the financial and material benefits, many young volunteers find this work rewarding. And they try to recruit friends, like 19-year-old Sam Shaffer of Belmont Hills Fire Company.
Shaffer joined at 14 but was in a serious car accident in 2021 while on duty, spending three days in the ICU. One of his fellow firefighters on the scene, Thomas Royds, passed away. Despite that, the passion for firefighting is still present.
“I just got back on the truck,” he said. “That’s how you pay back the guys who lost their lives.”
Read more about volunteer firefighters in Montgomery County on Main Line Today.
What does it take to become a volunteer firefighter?
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